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cove from Unarmed and Dangerous Routledg

There is tremendous controversy across the United States (and beyond) when a police officer uses deadly force against an unarmed citizen, but often the conversation is devoid of contextual details. These details matter greatly as a matter of law and organizational legitimacy. In this short book, authors Jon Shane and Zoë Swenson offer a comprehensive analysis of the first study to use publicly available data to reveal some of the context in which an officer used deadly force against an unarmed citizen. Although any police shooting, even a justified shooting, is not a desired outcome—often termed “lawful but awful” in policing circles—it is not necessarily a crime. The results of this study lend support to the notion that being unarmed does not mean “not dangerous,” in some ways explaining why most police officers are not indicted when such a shooting occurs. The study’s findings show that when police officers used deadly force during an encounter with an unarmed citizen, the officer or a third person was facing imminent threat of death or serious injury in the vast majority of situations. Moreover, when police officers used force, their actions were almost always consistent with the accepted legal and policy principles that govern law enforcement in the overwhelming proportion of encounters (as measured by indictments).

Noting the dearth of official data on the context of police shooting fatalities, Shane and Swenson call for the U.S. government to compile comprehensive data so researchers and practitioners can learn from deadly force encounters and improve practices. They further recommend that future research on police shootings should examine the patterns and micro-interactions between the officer, citizen, and environment in relation to the prevailing law. The unique data and analysis in this book will inform discussions of police use of force for researchers, policymakers, and students involved in criminal justice, public policy, and policing.

Pages from Stress inside police organiza

This book offers researchers, police practitioners, and policymakers a platform for organizational reform and an understanding of how the police organization creates stress, which contributes to reduced officer performance.

This book, based on an in-depth study exploring the relationship between perceived organizational stressors and police performance, indicates which features of the police organization generate the most stress affecting performance, and provides a model of organizational stress that applies to police agencies. While much stress research portrays the operation of policing as the greatest source of contention among officers, this research shows the ever-present rigid hierarchical design of the police agency to be a contributing factor of stress that affects performance.

Ideal for scholars, police personnel, and policymakers who are interested in how the police organization contributes to lower officer performance, this book has implications for policing agencies in the United States and worldwide.

Pages from organizational accident.jpg

While the proximate cause of any accident is usually someone’s immediate action— or omission (failure to act)—there is often a trail of underlying latent conditions that facilitated their error: the person has, in effect, been unwittingly “set up” for failure by the organization.  This Brief explores an accident in policing, as a framework for examining existing police practices.   Learning from Error in Policing describes a case of wrongful arrest from the perspective of organizational accident theory, which suggests a single unsafe act—in this case a wrongful arrest—is facilitated by several underlying latent conditions that triggered the event and failed to stop the harm once in motion.   The analysis demonstrates that the risk of errors committed by omission (failing to act) were significantly more likely to occur than errors committed by acts of commission. 


By examining this case, policy implications and directions for future research are discussed.   The analysis of this case, and the underlying lessons learned from it will have important implications for researchers and practitioners in the policing field.​

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This monograph was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice as part of the Sentinel Events Initiative.  Every error that occurs in our criminal justice system — every episode of failed justice — inflicts specific harms: An individual is wrongfully convicted, a criminal goes free, a victim is deprived of justice, a community is ill-served, and the agencies of justice emerge more tarnished and less trusted than before. Although it is imperative to address these specific harms, that alone is not enough. Errors must be recognized as potential sentinel events that could signal more complex flaws that threaten the integrity of the system as a whole.

The successes of sentinel event reviews in other professions inspire us to imagine a justice system that is constantly working to understand itself and its errors and is strengthening its processes by embracing a forward-leaning approach where shared responsibility prevails over finger-pointing and blaming. Yet we do not take this inspiration as an article of blind faith: NIJ’s commitment to testing, analyzing and objective evaluation remains uncompromised. The evidence may show that efforts to adopt a sentinel events approach in criminal justice are not feasible or effective, or it may reveal that these are indeed the first formative steps in a revolution that ensures a system that is fair, unbiased, and worthy of our highest ideals.

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